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Match Reports
Spurs v Manchester United, 21.12.03


Spurs scorer:-
Poyet, 63

Man Utd scorers:-
O'Shea, 15
Van Nistelrooy, 25

Referee:- Rob Styles

Attendance:- 35,910

Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr (Capt..), Richards, Gardner, Taricco (sub Ricketts, 63); Dalmat (sub Postiga, 76), King, Anderton (sub Poyet, 18), Konchesky; Keane, Kanoute

Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Doherty

Booked:- Taricco, Konchesky

Man Utd (4-4-1-1):- Howard; G. Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea; Fletcher (sub Ronaldo, 78), Keane (Capt.) (sub Butt, 81), P. Neville, Giggs; Scholes; Van Nistelrooy

Subs not used:- Carroll; Fortune, Forlan

Booked:- Giggs, Scholes

Had Spurs not sat back in admiration at the master class given by the visitors in the first half and for the first fifteen minutes of the second, but competed throughout the game, instead of just for the latter stages, then they may have come out of the match with a share of the spoils. Certainly, it must be said that they come out of the game with more credit than most of their followers anticipated. With goals by O'Shea, and inevitably Van Nistelrooy, in the first 25 minutes, it looked very much on the cards that the scoreline was not going to be at all pleasant, but the tempo and spirit shown by Spurs in that last half hour does give hope for the battles to come over Christmas and thereafter.

With the exception of Darren Fletcher on the right wing, Sir Alex fielded a top-notch side, who kept possession, passed intelligently, and looked almost as if they could have scored at will in that first period. At the moment of course, they feel that it's them against the world, and Ro Ferdinand was playing despite his forthcoming 8 month ban.

For Spurs, Ricketts and Poyet remained on the bench, and Stephane Dalmat got a start, playing on the right wing, with Anderton in the middle beside Ledley King. Clearly, Anderton had been a gamble, as he played little part, before being replaced by Gus Poyet after only 18 minutes, due to injury. By then, Spurs were already a goal down, and the omens looked bad. Dean Richards also returned to the side, and as early as the first minute, he might have watched Ryan Giggs put the ball in the net, as the Welshman got a boot onto a cross from the right to glance the ball behind Richards and just wide of the far post.

Spurs were trying to match United for their attacking flair, but allowed the Red Devils far too much room on the ball in their own half and into the Spurs half. Ledley King sent Kanoute away with a good ball, but Fredi's effort fizzled out. Then Dalmat tried to repeat his "Wolves" goal with a run in from the right, hitting the shot wide across the goalmouth. On 10 minutes, Robbie Keane was sent into space, and sent the ball out to Dalmat, whose low cross evaded the attack. Two minutes later, United demonstrated just what they could do as soon as they were given half a chance, as a Spurs attack collapsed with Kanoute. Scholes sent Van Nistelrooy away, and his low shot was saved by Keller, who allowed the ball to bounce dangerously away from his body, but managed to retrieve it before the advancing Fletcher could reach him.

Minutes later, United did take the lead. Stephen Carr may have conceded the corner that led to the goal a little cheaply, as he turned the ball behind when he was the last defender beyond the back post. From the corner, O'Shea popped up, stuck a leg out, and his glancing shot went across the area and into the net. Straight from the kick off, Robbie Keane headed a long ball goalward, but Howard saved at the second attempt, stretching to his right.

Having castigated Poyet roundly for his lack of involvement at Newcastle, and his poor penalty effort on Wednesday, he did play a full part in the remaining part of the first half at least, and hit a good low shot to the left of Howard, after a Kanoute head-down and Keane pass. The keeper saved, but again was at a stretch. Spurs then had a nice move led by Carr, but when Robbie Keane fed Dalmat, there was no power on the shot.

Spurs went two down after 25 minutes, after another break-away attack from the visitors. Scholes and Giggs sent Van Nistelrooy away, and Anthony Gardner tackled as the Dutchman shot, but could only get a deflection that kept the ball low and into the corner of Keller's goal.

Some more good work by Dalmat led to a cross that went all the way to Konchesky on the left, who returned the ball, only for Carr to fire his shot way over the bar. Ledley King lost out in the middle and Giggs was away on a run, having his shot saved, by Keller who then saw Scholes' follow up deflected for a corner. Dalmat was to have another effort, after being teed up by Kanoute. Once again the ball was deflected out for a corner.

The early stages of the second half saw Man Utd again dominating play. Spurs first attack of note came after 56 minutes, and when it broke down, United were away with a slick move. Giggs, in the middle sent Van Nistelrooy away, and his shot was only inches wide of the far post, with a right to left angle. Then Spurs lifted the tempo, and started to fight more for the ball. Carr did well on the touchline, and Dalmat found Keane, who fired over. The Spurs goal came thanks to the higher tempo, and some first-time passing. Kanoute fed the ball to Konchesky, whose deep cross went over O'Shea, and was volleyed back into the 6 yard box by Dalmat. Gus Poyet raced in to meet the ball, which went under Howard's body (the keeper got a strong touch on the ball), then rolled in off the post.

The crowd was up for a recovery, and urged the Whites on to greater things. Dalmat responded with a lovely chipped pass to Keane who tried a first-time shot, but miscued, allowing the ball to go behind for a goal-kick. Dalmat was replaced by Postiga, and there had been confusion earlier before Ricketts replaced Taricco (at the second attempt), as Dalmat seemed to indicate a need to be replaced at that time.

Spurs tried gamely, but the closest they got to a goal was a low Ricketts shot, just held by Howard on the bye-line to the left of his goal. In the dying stages, Kanoute juggled the ball on the edge of the box, then hit a right foot shot just over the bar.

The visitors regained the top place in the league, and are 22 points ahead of Spurs after just 17 games. Spurs remain in 15th, and next up is that crucial game at Pompey on Boxing Day.

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